Lucretia Mott? Louis K. Anspacher? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: Historically, the marriage contract has been unequal. A different vision was presented by reformers in the nineteenth century:
In the true marriage relation the independence of the husband and the wife is equal, their independence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.
Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?
Quote Investigator: In 1841 the prominent women’s rights activist Lucretia Mott delivered a speech in Boston, Massachusetts during which she spoke about the changes she wished to see in the relations between men and women. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
I believe the tendency of truth, on this subject, is to equalize the sexes; and that, when truth directs us, there will be no longer assumed authority on one side, or admitted inferiority on the other; but that as we advance in the cultivation of all our powers, physical as well as intellectual and moral, we shall see that our independence is equal, our dependence mutual, and our obligations reciprocal.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1853 Lucretia Mott addressed the National Women’s Rights Convention and she employed a simpler variant of the expression applied directly to marriage: 2
When woman shall be properly trained, and her spiritual powers developed, she will find in entering the marriage union nothing necessarily degrading to her. The independence of the husband and wife should be equal, and the dependence reciprocal. But Oh! how different now! The so-called church, and the state together, have made her a perfect slave. Talk of the barbarous ages! Why the barbarous ages are now!
In 1855 an entry about Lucretia Mott was included in the reference work of biographical summaries called “Woman’s Record; Or, Sketches of All Distinguished Women: From the Creation to A.D. 1854”. Mott’s entry included the following quotation: 3
“Then, in the marriage union the independence of the husband and wife will be equal, their dependence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.”
In 1874 a newspaper article in the “The Philadelphia Inquirer” of Pennsylvania reported on a meeting of the Radical Club of Philadelphia. The members attending adopted a resolution agreeing with a statement attributed to Lucretia Mott. The statement from Mott supposedly was written in 1829, but QI has not yet found any direct support for this early date: 4
.. and with Lucretia Mott, who wrote in 1829 as follows:—‘in the true marriage relation the independence of the husband and wife is equal, their dependence mutual and their obligations reciprocal.'”
In 1930 poet, playwright, and lecturer Louis K. Anspacher addressed the Twentieth Century Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Anspacher employed an instance of the saying while discussing the dramas of Henrik Ibsen: 5
In his three plays on marriage, it was pointed out, Ibsen examines the ethical attitude of society and his analysis makes marriage, in independence, equal; in dependence, mutual and in obligation, reciprocal.
In 1932 “The New York Times” published an article titled “The American College Woman Emerges”. The viewpoint of the modern women toward marriage was summarized with an unattributed instance of the saying: 6
She is likely to regard marriage as an enterprise where “independence is equal, dependence mutual and obligations reciprocal.”
In 1934 Louis K. Anspacher employed the saying again during a speech in Boston, Massachusetts: 7
The speaker defined a proper marriage as one in which the independence of the husband and wife is equal, dependence mutual, and obligations reciprocal. Divorce should be free like marriage itself, he claimed.
In recent decades, Anspacher has often received credit for the saying. For example, in 2003 “Florida Today” of Cocoa, Florida published this: 8
What Is A Marriage?
That relation between man and woman in which the independence is equal, the dependence mutual, and the obligation reciprocal.
Louis K. Anspacher
The linkage to Mott has not been forgotten. In 2005 she received credit in a Longview, Texas newspaper: 9
In the marriage union, the independence of the husband and wife (should) be equal, their dependence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.
In conclusion, Lucretia Mott should receive credit for this saying. She employed more than one version in her speeches. The 1855 citation presents a complete instance. Louis K. Anspacher also used the saying, but only many years after it was in circulation.
Image Notes: Interlinked hearts from PIRO4D at Pixabay. Portrait of Lucretia Mott circa 1842 by Joseph Kyle from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; accessed via Wikimedia commons. Images have been cropped and resized.
(Great thanks to Carolyn Haley whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Additional thanks to helpful discussants Beth Twomey, Katherine Harper, Jay Dillon, and Andy Behrens. Also thanks to researcher Fred Shapiro.)
- 1841 October 15, The Liberator, Speech by Lucretia Mott at the Marlboro’ Chapel, Boston on September 23, 1841, Quote Page 4 (also 168), Column 3, Boston, Massachusetts. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1854, Proceedings of the National Women’s Rights Convention, Location of Convention: Cleveland, Ohio, Dates of Convention: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, October 5th, 6th, and 7th, 1853, Speech by Mrs Mott (Lucretia Mott), Start Page 56, Quote Page 63 and 64, Published for the Committee by Gray, Beardsley, Spear & Co., Printers, Plain Dealer Office, Cleveland, Ohio. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1855, Woman’s Record; Or, Sketches of All Distinguished Women: From the Creation to A.D. 1854: Arranged in Four Eras: with Selections from Female Writers of Every Age, Author: Sarah Josepha Hale, Entry for “Lucretia Mott”, Start Page 752, Quote Page 753, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1874 February 26, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia and Suburbs, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Old Fulton) ↩
- 1930 February 25, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Spirit of Modern Drama Defined by Dr. Anspacher, Quote Page 10, Column 7, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 1932 April 17, New York Times, The American College Woman Emerges: She Has Widened Her Horizon and Enriched Her Life, Says One Who Has Kept Watch by Mabel Barbee Lee, Section: New York Times Magazine, Start Page SM4, Quote Page SM5, New York. (ProQuest) ↩
- 1934 December 31, Boston Globe, Says Women Have Justified New Right: Louis K. Anspacher Talks in Old South Forum Quote Page 4, Column 8, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest) ↩
- 2003 June 21, Florida Today, Section: Celebrations – Advertising Supplement, What Is a Marriage? , Quote Page 7, Column 1, Cocoa, Florida. (Newspapers_com) ↩
- 2005 March 20, Longview News-Journal, (Filler item in a box), Quote Page 8D, Column 1, Longview, Texas. (Newspapers_com) ↩